24 April, 2016

In awe

A chilly Sunday afternoon's birding at Grimley gave me a chance to have a nice catch up with some of the regular patch workers, Jason Kernohan (formerly Shenstone Birder) and Mike Bourne, whom I hadn't bumped into in a while.

There was nothing of any particular rarity to be found on the pits, but with Sand Martins flitting about in every possible space of air over the water, Lapwings guarding chicks in the meadows and Yellow Wagtails catching flies along the shoreline, you'd have to be one stale piece of work not to completely awed by it all. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.





Cuteness overload!

 Oystercatchers

Little Egret & Great Crested Grebe


A Sand Martin being emotional

The Nature of Wyre


The Nature of Wyre is a stunning 300 page hardback documenting the natural history of arguably the finest and most biodiverse example of ancient woodland remaining in England; the culmination of many years worth of recording by expert naturalists across Worcestershire. I've had this one on my wish list since it was published back in December, but last week I finally went ahead and added it to the bookshelf.

Pages and pages worth insect, plant, lichen and fungi species accounts will prove a worthy addition to any wildlife enthusiast/pan-species lister's bookshelf, and you don't need any prior knowledge of the forest to be able to appreciate sublime photography from John Robinson, Patrick Clements, Oliver Wadsworth and John Bingham to name but a few. The £40 price tag is a minor niggle, but then what else would I have realistically spent that money on? Food shopping? Gas bills? Course fees? Probably, but those things are boring.

I've only visited the Wyre on two occasions - the first time for a bryophyte survey and the second for a moth trapping session, but it has already won me over. I'll be visiting the forest again as part of my last ever lecture (yes, last EVER lecture) next Thursday, and once I officially finish uni (yes, FINISH university) on 18th May following my final exam (yes, FINAL exam), I'll have plenty of time in early summer to make repeated trips (yes, REPEATE- sorry, I'll stop now) before my house contract in Worcester runs out.



Blimey! Get me finishing uni. Where has the time gone? It really does seem like only last week that I posted in anticipation of starting it all back in 2013, and what a fantastic experience it has been. Better stop writing now before this gets too cheesy and emotional.

Erm... but yeah, where was I? The Nature of Wyre. Well worth a buy. 

19 April, 2016

Surveys in the city


Back in February, myself and a couple of other students teamed up with a local conservation charity, Duckworth Worcestershire Trust, to bring more ecological surveying opportunities to students at the university.

Fast-forward to yesterday and we finally found an opportunity to take over the reigns of their BTO surveys at Chapter Meadows, a small nature reserve situated just opposite Worcester Cathedral on the opposite bank of the Severn.

Looking back at the Trust's previous surveys on the reserve (or rather lack of them), I wasn't too optimistic that we'd find much, but I was soon proved wrong when a Lesser Whitethroat popped up from a hedgerow almost as soon as we opened the gate! A pair of Bullfinch flew over, giving off their sombre call as they went, but the star of the survey was a beautiful male Redstart that spent 10 minutes catching flies in a playing field alongside the river. It's always nice to see passage migrants in such urban settings - just a shame when all you have to take a photo with is a macro lens:

Redstart

Common Bladder-moss Physcomitrium pyriforme

Cellar Cup Peziza sp.

17 April, 2016

Mothing... flat out

I spent the duration of this evening at one of my favourite local spots - a small, isolated patch of deciduous woodland out towards Powick. I'm not sure who owns it (or even if it is owned) but the secluded nature of the woodland - situated at the bottom of a damp meadow and bordered on all sides by expansive arable fields - means that it gets little footfall from the public (or at least that's what I like to tell myself).


The ground flora is typical of semi-natural woodland at this time of year, with Wood Anemones and Bluebells forming a carpet of colour through which I carefully trod in search of invertebrates. There wasn't a huge amount going on in terms of moth activity, but I did tap these two vibrant characters from their daytime roost on an oak tree branch.

Caloptilia robustella

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella

Colt's-foot


Despite being 'local', it still takes a good 15 minutes to cycle to the wood. Unfortunately, I returned to my bike to find I'd picked up a nasty puncture on the way over, meaning a long and sobering walk home along the busy main road. On the plus side, it gave me my first cringy blog post title pun in a long while!

13 April, 2016

Memories of Eigg

Just recently I was catching up with a good friend, Dean Jones, whom I'd volunteered with on Skokholm back in 2014. Since our joint placement on Skok, Dean travelled over to the Greek island of Samos to help oversee marine and bird conservation initiates for a year, and no sooner has he returned to mainland UK than he's headed straight back off again to take up a Ranger position with Scottish Wildlife Trust on the Isle of Eigg.

Hearing him describe his first week on the island; the jolliness (and drunkenness) of the islanders, the indescribable beauty of watching the last rays of sunlight flare up from behind the distant mountains of Rum, suddenly had me reminiscing about my short but rewarding stint on this tiny Hebridean island last summer - working for the Eigg Heritage Trust.

It is an island of contrast - from the steep cliffs and dramatic An Sgurr rock formation in the east, to the barren moorland in the west, and sheltered sandy beaches in the north.


I spent much of each day providing an extra pair of hands for various island projects and events; sheep shearing, croft building, fruit-picking, community fêtes and cèilidhs, but every spare moment was spent exploring the island. As you can tell by the repetitiveness of the photos, I became particularly captivated by the view looking out to Rum:









30 March, 2016

Spring flowers

Winter always wrecks havoc on my natural history knowledge, and I find my first few spring outings are usually spent getting to grips with the various flora and fauna I've simply forgotten the names of since I last saw them a year ago.

This is especially true when it comes to plants. People often tell me that all moths look brown and confusing, but plants are a whole new level of baffling - especially when all you have to go by are the leaves! Last year I bought myself one of those vegetative keys; completely devoid of pictures but with a promise on the blurb that the key will make identification of wild flowers 'swift and easy' for beginners with use of a 'minimal number of technical terms'. Excited and eager, I turned to the description for Bluebell and my heard sank:

"Lvs 3-6, 0.7-1.6cm wide. Raceme 1-sided. Fls all soon nodding, fragrant; stamens unequal; anthers cream"

I've been too frightened to use the key since. Luckily, the plants in flower today on my stroll to the local woods weren't quite so hard to identify...

Greater Stitchwort

Ground-ivy

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Barren Strawberry

Lesser Swine-cress

Bluebell


Wood Anemone

A carpet of Lesser Celandine

It well and truly felt like spring, but I'm now beginning to wonder whether the lure of such fantastic countryside just a 15 minutes walk from my student house is going to prove detrimental in the last few months of my degree!

28 March, 2016

Last week's haul

Last Tuesday saw the return of the balcony moth trap to our student house for the first time since a highly productive session in late October last year. The result was 18 moths of 8 species, including a spring moth that has eluded me for eternity - the Shoulder-stripe.

2 Shoulder-stripe
7 Hebrew Character
1 Chestnut
2 Clouded Drab
3 Common Quaker
1 Small Quaker
1 March Moth
1 Depressaria daucella

A stunning Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) was flying around the lounge on Friday morning.

Twenty-plume Moth

March Moth

Shoulder-stripe

14 March, 2016

The power of the sun

Coming off the back of a cloudy and drizzly week, I love the way that early spring sunshine has the ability to warm crisp March air and accentuate bright colours displayed by hardy, early season roadside flowers - particularly Lesser Celandine and Daffodils. It also has an unrivaled ability to send my motivation to get out and appreciate wildlife into overdrive (much to the annoyance of my dissertation!), so you can imagine I've been making the most of this little spell of golden weather we've been experiencing up in Worcester these past few days.

On Saturday morning I took a stroll down a local wooded footpath with a moth net - more out of hope than expectation - but soon stumbled across Mompha jurassicella flying weakly in the dappled sunshine. This is the 4th individual I've found locally over the past two years, suggesting that isn't quite as rare as the lack of Worcestershire records might imply.

Yesterday saw myself and a couple of friends head over to Grimley Camp Lane Pits in search of early migrants - Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover being top of the wish list. Neither materialised, but it was just nice to be out with the binoculars again. We had the luxury of a car to ferry us between locations which meant that I could afford to carry a little bit more gear - I opted for the the telephoto lens which, only a couple of posts ago, I said I'd more than likely never use again...

Mompha jurassicella

 Beautiful bird, rubbish photo. It's a start though.

29 February, 2016

Salticus scenicus

Last week I partook in my first twitch of the year, hoping to show a friend the overwintering Short-eared Owls at Kempsey just a couple of miles south of Worcester. Despite being reported on a daily basis since the start of February, with up to five openly hunting across fields in broad daylight, we failed to connect with the birds in the two hours spent searching, and our attention inevitably turned to the local insect life.

On the south-facing wall of Kempsey church - extremely well camouflaged against the stone - Jumping Spiders (Salticus scenicus) were hunting too...






18 February, 2016

Signs of spring

Took a walk along the footpath that run by the side of our student house this morning, in the hope that fresh air would shrug off the last of a cold that has been nagging at me for the past week.

I don't want to speak too soon but it seems to have done the trick. Lying in bed with the curtains drawn swallowing paracetamol every few hours does nothing for me, but just a few minutes standing outside with the sun on my face worked wonders on clear the feeling of grogginess from my head - there were even some signs along the path that spring is just around the corner.


Phytomyza ranunculi leaf mine

Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans


Carpets of Lesser Celandine decorate field margins and road sides throughout Worcester at the moment